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  • Herman Melville was an American novelist, poet, and writer of short stories. His contributions to the Western canon are the whaling novel Moby-Dick; the short work Bartleby, the Scrivener about a clerk in a Wall Street office; the slave ship narrative Benito Cereno; and Billy Budd, Sailor. When asked which of the great American writers he most admired, Vladimir Nabokov replied: "When I was young I liked Poe, and I still love Melville, whom I did not read as a boy." Around his twentieth year he was a schoolteacher for a short time, then became a seaman when his father met business reversals. On his first voyage he jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands, where he lived for a time. His first book, an account of that time, Typee, became a bestseller and Melville became known as the "man who lived among the cannibals". After Omoo, the sequel to his first book, Melville began to work philosophical issues in his third book, the elaborate Mardi. The public indifference to Moby-Dick, and Pierre, put an end to his career as a popular author. From 1853 to 1856 he wrote short fiction for magazines, collected as The Piazza Tales.

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  • Reappraisal of his work in the twentieth century has restored his reputation as one of the finest American writers.

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